Snowpacolypse 2010!

That’s what Seattlites are already dubbing last night. Only two inches of snow fell in my neighborhood, but I’m reevaluating my Midwestern instinct to heckle. When your city is hilly and severely deprived of snow plows and deicers, this is the result:

My favorite “Oh nooooooooooo” moment is when the bus appears around 3 minutes in, and proceeds to fail. I road the bus home last night, but thankfully my route didn’t need to conquer any major hills.

Because the roads are basically made of ice, school was canceled. You know it’s bad when universities aren’t even sending their grad students in. Of course, I’m used to living in Indiana, where we have an army of snow plots ready to make the road spotless at the sight of a single flake. The only time school was canceled for us was when the power went out because of a storm. Ah, the fond memories of walking to class in below zero weather during a blizzard.

Instead I’m huddled up next to my not-very-effective space heater in my much-too-cold basement apartment preparing for my trip to Canada. I was planning on leaving Thursday morning, but now I’m a bit worried about the weather forecast:I was already worried driving on Thanksgiving Day and dealing with crossing the border, but now there’s going to be rain and snow too? Gah. I just hope I get there in one piece. If I don’t make it to my talk on atheism and feminism, I’m sure people would be happy to have an open discussion about atheism and skepticism for the ten billionth time.

EDIT: I’d just like to add that I’ve heard at least three different sirens during the time it took me to write this post. Snowpacolypse chaos!!!


  1. says

    Here in Portland, the potential possibility of maybe some sort of Snowpocalypse VII Snowmageddon showdown has been a feature of local news for two days running. We have, thus far, received a grand total of 20 flakes.But why would NEWS organizatons worry about News when they can talk endlessly about their Stormtracker 9000Xtreme! And have ‘Breaking News’ Alerts.

  2. Rootboy says

    Yeah it’s always kind of hilarious when snow hits places that don’t get it often enough for people to be prepared for it. Way to plan for tail events, guys.

  3. says

    Yeah here in Austin we get cancellations when it rains hard. Even the malls shut down when there’s ice involved, and we all know how capitalism feels about that!

  4. Ian says

    Drive slow and give yourself lots of time. Also, keep an eye on the border wait time radio stations. Canadian customs is usually pretty quick (terrorists aren’t trying to get into our country), and once across the highways here are cleared frequently.SFU is also on a mountain, so if its snowing our school may be closed – we’ll figure something out in that case (likely hanging out at a pub somewhere warm).I hope you have winter tires and a scraper in your car!

  5. wunelle says

    Amazing footage. I drove a city bus for 10 years in Minneapolis, of all places, and they do not slip and slide easily (it’s just physics, I know, but still…). To see one slowly sliding like that is eye-opening.

  6. says

    I’m just across the Strait in Victoria, and it was crazy here too. We used to live outside Edmonton (Alberta) on a farm and got used to winter. One year on the We(s)t Coast and you forget everything you knew about winter. And don’t worry, it’ll be gone soon enough.

  7. Jacques Dufarge69 says

    When I lived at Lake Tahoe, there was a bar at the bottom of a hill just on the Nevada side of the state line. We’d love to gather there on snowy weekends and watch the expensive 4WD cars slide into an empty lot. People just didn’t understand that just because 4WD lets you start moving and accelerate, it did nothing for your braking ability. And it always seemed like the most expensive cars were driven by the most physics-ignorant drivers…

  8. loreleion says

    I was on an articulated bus that was inching its way up a slight incline, tires spinning out beneath me, and when we reached the apex everyone cheered and the driver said over the P.A., “I had to pray that one up the hill.”Little does she know it was actually me chanting an incantation that did it.

  9. says

    My grandparents lived in Zephyr Cove — I bet I know the bar you’re talking about. Saw plenty of cars like that.Jen — rent a manual, get snow chains & you know the rest! Safe travels…

  10. says

    Plows aren’t so viable in Seattle. Not when they’re only needed a couple days a year. Also, to the best of my knowledge, plows in Seattle need to be rubber so they don’t ruin all the raised road markers that are necessary for rainy weather. I come from Montana where worse snow is normal, so I was amazed at the reactions to the snow. But this is only my second bad snowstorm in my 5 years living here, and winter weather is just not something people can get used to out here. That video really needs some Yakkity Sax.

  11. breadbox says

    That video was made a block away from where I live. I love Capitol Hill but the inclines are pretty extreme. Still, what in the world was that bus doing trying to go down Capitol Hill without chains? It’s not like snow wasn’t predicted.

  12. loreleion says

    Pretty sure it has chains on. Every bus I saw yesterday did, and I can maybe kinda see them in the video.

  13. says

    Agh!!!! My butt was clenched for almost six full minutes watching this video! I think I have a butt cramp now. Damn it! I was seriously expecting the fire truck to skid out, too. I’m thinking “Okay, how many damn vehicles are you going to send down that hill before y’all learn your lesson?”

  14. Kaleberg says

    At least this year there are no school buses hanging out over I-5. Also, this year Seattle actually will use salt on major roads as opposed to previous years where salt was out of the question.It may not be obvious, but the warmer weather in Seattle is part of the problem. In the northern tier east of the Rockies, it snows, then it gets real cold. The snow stays as snow until spring. In Seattle, the snow melts. Then it freezes and forms nasty sheets of ice. Of course, with global warming, the north west is supposed to get colder and snowier, at least in some models. Eventually, they’ll get enough plows in place. There’s nothing like not doing enough plowing to get a mayor kicked out of office. Ask the folks in Chicago and New York.

  15. says

    When I was in college, my roommate and I had a similar experience. His car turned 180 degrees and hit a tree in the back. I felt dizzy and was so confused that for a while I thought the tree was gay.

  16. NotThatGreg says

    And, don’t keep turning the wheel after front tires fail to track (the bus did this, wheels were full to the right even as it drifted left). Not sure it would have made any difference though. I like how it totally flattened the bus stop.Though Steve, there was one night about 15 years ago, I was driving my (rear-drive) RX7, very nasty thick, deep sticky snow, falling very heavily – the car would not move, period, unless I spun the wheels. And it moved fairly well when I did – except for the back end being insanely loose (lots of helpful people yelling at me “don’t spin the wheels, use second gear” – thanks dude.) This in heavy slow 4-lane-wide traffic – when the highway slanted to the left on a curve, I just drifted over until I was almost hung on the railing – until I figured out the trick of just keeping the nose to the right a little so it would buck the slope as I drifted along. Had to wait for a lull in the traffic for elbow room – for some reason people get freaked out when there’s a car nearby which is pointing a bit sideways, even if it is actually following the lane, more or less. Ah, what fun.

  17. says

    I feel sorry for the driver too. S/he was about the only one that wasn’t going too damn fast down that hill to start with. The first guy did a pretty decent job though, at least s/he didn’t lock the tires. I think what I love is that red van that is slowly slipping down the hill through a good chunk of the video.

  18. A-M says

    We react with equal horror to snow in the UK (well in England we do, I think the Scots are a lot more used to it). After last year’s big freeze, there was panic that we’d have to ship in road grit from Germany! Luckily (or unfortunately) for me, I use the tram to get to work, which was the only mode of transportation that was still running properly. No days off for me.

  19. says

    I have freaking agita from watching that. Yikes. Been in the car going backwards down the icy hill, but it was a steep assed, BRICK hill in Syracuse during a snowstorm. Basically, I was asking for it, and was unsurprised at my failure. Thankfully, I was the only idiot out there, so I didn’t hit anyone else or any property, and promptly drove the 2 flat blocks back home for the duration.

  20. Prairieknitwit says

    I live in Manitoba. We have already had our first major snowstorm and are now onto our third one. The first one is always the worst because people seem to forget how to drive in bad weather over the (very short) summer. Very rarely do schools get closed around here (the temps have to reach past -40C). I was surprised school buses ran today, though.

  21. says

    See the trick for that truck at 57secs when blowing a stop sign is to lay on the horn BEFORE you get to the intersection to alert other drivers that you’re going to blow it, then they don’t honk at you. Silly Americans…

  22. Screamer77 says

    I have to say that those 20 flakes made it hard yesterday to get out of my driveway, but once I passed that point everything was fine. Still, a bunch of schools were closed.

  23. says

    I was totally expecting heckling! We’re ridiculous in the snow here. And the city swore up and down after two years ago that they’d be using plenty of salt on the roads — haven’t seen it yet, though maybe when I go in to school today. (Plants still need water, and that 70-degree growth room is going to feel really nice to humans as well.)

  24. Prairieknitwit says

    I LOVE ketchup chips. Americans seriously don’t know what they are missing. Oh, and creamy dill pickle. Old Dutch rocks.

  25. says

    WOW. Just WOW. I can’t believe anyone would call that bad weather. Wanna see “Snowpacolypse”? Try this video of the snow storm in Gävle (small town in Sweden) in 1998.

    You’re worried about a litte bit of snow and a slippery street? Try digging starting every morning with digging out your car.Just out of curiosity: Has anyone ever heard of spike tyres? Or even winter tyres? In Sweden we have laws that requires you to equip them, thank god! But I guess you Americans like your freedom, in this case freely sliding down a 30 degree slope… And canceling school? Seriously? Over two inches of snow and some slippery roads? I mean in Stockholm we’ve already gotten 4-8 inches and winter hasn’t even started yet… Last year we got up to a metre before we had problems.And don’t even get me started on the lack of road salt! Even if you don’t get snow often enough to salt your roads or have plows ready, you should equip some spike or winter tires. Won’t hurt you when it’s warmer, but might save your life on a day like this.

  26. chicagodyke says

    heh, i was just coming here to mock people in Atlanta for the same reason!i was there many years ago during an unexpected freeze. the whole town shut down. it was pathetic. what really amused me was how all the ladies of Atlanta were donning these full length fur coats (why they had them in the South is beyond me, but still). it wasn’t really “cold,” so much as it dipped in and out of freezing temps for the weekend. i was on my way from MI to FL, and i remember how the southern freeways were totally backed up and slow, all because of a few flakes. it was annoying to drive in, but funny to watch. people were so panicked.

  27. Shannon says

    Generally, a tire that’s good for rain. The people who managed to make it down the hill with their car mostly pointing straight probably had all weather radials. When you get one major snow every other year, it doesn’t make much financial sense to invest in snow tires. Unless you ski.

  28. Syetlana says

    You really should have been in Seattle 2 years ago for that snow storm. No power for almost 2 weeks for some of us and the snow and ice stuck around the entire time.

  29. Katrina says

    The problem here isn’t the white fluffy stuff. It’s the inch of sheet ice hiding under the white fluffy stuff.The whole time the snow was falling, the thermometer hovered between 34 and 30 degrees. The snow didn’t start sticking to the streets until sunset, when the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. The Pacific Northwest doesn’t use salt. Never has. We sand here, but the 40+ mph winds that hit Monday night kept blowing the sand off the roads.Many people use studded tires here, but days like Monday night require chains.

  30. katemonster says

    “Ask the folks in Chicago and New York.”And Seattle…The original Snowpocalypse (2008) is not unrelated to the reason Greg Nickels is no longer the mayor.

  31. Buffy2q says

    I experienced a similar phenomenon. I was born and raised in New England, where it took a major blizzard for school, etc, to close down. And, of course, everybody knew how to handle weather events both on the road and off. Then I moved to the Mid-Atlantic area. They’d close down entire counties for half an inch of snow, a hint of ice or even *fog*. Worse yet, a simple rain storm would have people clueless as to how to drive. Sometimes I was really left scratching my head.

  32. the_Siliconopolitan says

    I did have to go all the way in the first gear to work Friday morning, but I went to uni in the second.That said, I started the 8.10 class with eight students out of 29. 24 had made it in by 10.

  33. Chris says

    I recognize that street, I have had to park on it many times either renting tiny violins or getting the full size violin maintained for daughter. That street is scary even on dry sunny days. It is a very steep street heading towards 12th Ave, with an awesome view of downtown and the Olympics.

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